The Jazz Digest, August 2012

Choice snips from Jazz Journal, August 2012



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From the editor
JJ OFC 0812I was intrigued and heartened to see in a Brit jazz world still mad on lo-fi amateurism that Yamaha have gone to the trouble of creating digital samples of Chick Corea's early 1980s Fender Rhodes Mark V for their Motif synthesizer range. The artisanal endeavour described in the press release and on YouTube echoes the invention found in Frank Dixon's descriptions of Decibel Record's "trailing edge" approach to sound recording (JJ August 2012, p13). I happen like the rich harmonic spectrum of the Rhodes a lot and it's fascinating to see that as much artistry went into creating Chick's particular sounds as many imagine goes into steam piano playing.

What is jazz, or music, without technique, the machinery of creation, and as I say in my review of Gary Husband's Dirty & Beautiful Vol 2 (JJ August 2012, p26) how can we forget the primary role of technological advance in shaping musical sound, invention and progress? It's not surprising that so much music from the so-called Leeds cutting edge, so often harking back to the worst of 70s tonalities, sounds so monotonal. Here's to proper musical endeavour!

Bob Mintzer on Jackie McLean
"I was actually a classical clarinet major but I hung out with Jackie and was playing all over the Hartford area. There's no better way to learn than with somebody like that. I still go back and study the early musicians to this day."

Elliot Mason and salaried jazz
"The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra is a salary gig with benefits: you get your schedule a year in advance which gives you the opportunity to concentrate on personal projects in your time off."

Mark Turner's favourite gig

Mark Turner describes playing with drummer Billy Hart as "One of the gigs – maybe THE gig – I look forward to most. Playing with Billy feels like stepping into infinity."

Kurt Elling's turning point
"When I got hip to what Jon Hendricks has been up to all these years, and Mark Murphy, I went to see them live. That was the big turning point. I figured I had some extremely potent examples of what it would mean to be a jazz singer."

Readers' poll choice comments

"I am very happy with Jazz Journal as it is. Taken along with Downbeat (for more about the younger American players) everything is covered" . . . "There should be much more on the best American jazz musicians and far less on inferior British musicians. There should be no coverage given to European chamber music" . . . "I'd like to see fewer atrocious views on Coltrane but I would say that JJ is without doubt the best jazz magazine in the UK."

Dave Gelly on Lionel Grigson, mentioned in our Art Themen feature
In 1960, in the wake of Kind Of Blue, when "modal" jazz was the latest thing, he wrote a piece in Granta, outlining its main characteristics, in the process coming to the conclusion that it wasn't "modal" at all.

Frank Dixon, boss of Decibel Records, remembers the fate of the label's amplifier, built by the legendary H.J. Leak
"This amp, in a huge steel-grey cabinet, later found its way to Manchester airport, and I was told c.1965 that it was still working, with its original valves, playing alarm calls to disperse birds from the runway"

John Robert Brown reads Robin Kelley's Africa Speaks, America Answers
"Elementary mistakes are committed, even down to the basic description of writing of "building to a crescendo," the author seeming not to recognise that a crescendo is a process, not a state. One writes less convincing jazz history and musically-associated commentary without basic musical understanding"

Derek Ansell reads Kenny Dorham's life in poetry
"KD: A Jazz Biography is written in rhymed quatrains throughout its entire 193 pages. I admired the poetry but wished I could have read about Kenny's life and music in prose. It seems to me the author has sacrificed additional information for the sake of getting his quatrains to flow and rhyme."

Brian Morton remembers the late Lol Coxhill
"Coxhill sounded like no one but himself, a puckish, almost Shakespearean figure whose drolleries masked a deep seriousness of purpose and whose mournful exterior camouflaged one of the few 'players' who really do convey the impression of an imagination at play . . . He didn't polish his saxophone, and latterly it was held together by rubber bands and good intentions, but it delivered a unique and irreplaceable sound in British jazz, in which bebop and the Beatles, cool jazz and working class anthems, pub songs and high art all seemed to play some indivisible part."

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Just a taste from over 80 CD reviews in this issue:

DAVE BRUBECK: THEIR LAST TIME OUT (Columbia)
"Another, perhaps clinching testament to what a magnificent group this was. I would hazard that no leading jazz musician has attracted as much vitriol and sheer nasty prejudice as Brubeck. Dates like this prove how shamefully, viciously cloth-eared were those inane detractors." (Richard Palmer) *****

BOOKER ERVIN: TEXAS TENOR: SEXTET, QUINTET AND QUARTET (Fresh Sound)
"The title track is a terrific two-tenor chase, with piled up twos and fours and great accompaniment. Largo is Booker's loveliest ballad performance apart from Uranus, and Poor Butterfly underlines his command of song form and willingness to stretch it. I'd say this was an essential set." (Brian Morton) ****

ART FARMER: FOUR CLASSIC ALBUMS (Avid)
"A word about Art's trumpet sound in this pre-flugel period. In the original notes, Gene Lees detects a 'smoked quality,' but I would go further. It's also peaty, like an island malt, so that the trumpet's brilliance is suffused with a touch of expressive hoarseness – a distinctive jazzman's soundprint that would be frowned upon by symphonic players." (Anthony Troon) ****

FLORATONE: FLORATONE II (Savoy Jazz)
"The sound is an extension of familiar Frisell territory with each number a curious American vignette. By turns sombre, poignant, sinister and jaunty, the Frisell/Chamberlain compositions capture different essences of the big country – with the emphasis on country. But it is jazz because the music is made and remade in the moment." (Garry Booth) ****

BENNY GOODMAN/ ANITA O'DAY: BIG BAND LIVE (Jazzhaus)
"This issue purports to be part of the first batch of some 3000 hours of jazz recordings from the archives of this German radio station. Something to look forward to!" (Jerry Brown) ****

GIGI GRYCE QUINTET: 1960-1961 (Fresh Sound)
"The sound quality and recording balance are first-rate and the 24-page booklet provides an interesting resumé of Gryce's career. A likely candidate for the 2012 top ten." (Brian Robinson) *****

COLEMAN HAWKINS: CLASSIC COLEMAN HAWKINS SESSIONS 1922-1947 (Mosaic)
"It's not just Hawk who's great. These discs are crowded with brilliant work by the other horns and pianists who find themselves in his company. The booklet, with the best assessment of Hawk's work that I've ever read, deserves an award on its own. I haven't voted in our record poll for a couple of years, but this one's enough to bring me out of retirement!" (Steve Voce) *****

GARY HUSBAND: DIRTY & BEAUTIFUL, VOLUME 2 (Abstract Logic)

"Time was when fusion was widespread and widely derided. Still often derided, this most musically revolutionary of jazz genres (like many step changes, a synthesis of innovation in style and technology) is now an endangered species, though not if people such as Gary Husband and the valiant Souvik Dutta of ABLX can help it." (Mark Gilbert) ****

VIJAY IYER: ACCELERANDO (ACT)
"Undoubtedly one of the crucial voices of his generation, Iyer with each new release is pulling the mainstream ever more left of centre, and an increasing range of musical influences is passing through his utterly unique lens." (Fred Grand) ****

KEITH JARRETT: SLEEPER (ECM)
"While mostly familiar, the music abounds in new accents and ideas and underlines these ultra-melodic improvisers’ uncanny ability to bring a compositional quality to their work. The packaging has some rare and excellent black and white shots of the quartet in action. For me, it all adds up to a record of the year." (Michael Tucker) *****

RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK: SPIRITS UP ABOVE: THE ATLANTIC YEARS 1965-1976 (Warner Jazz - vinyl issue)

"Kirk was an original soloist with a fresh sound, style and approach to jazz. This two-LP set on 180-gram vinyl sounds great although if you prefer you can get it as a two-CD set on Warner 2564659266." (Derek Ansell) *****

GERRY MULLIGAN AND THE CONCERT JAZZ BAND: SANTA MONICA 1960 (Fresh Sound)
"Five stars do not do justice to this CD, which serves as a reminder of what jazz lost when Mulligan disbanded the CJB in 1964 due to lack of bookings. Ira Gitler said it best: 'If this band cannot work when it wants to, there is something very wrong with the state of music in America.'" (Gordon Jack) *****

EVAN PARKER/JOHN EDWARDS/EDDIE PREVOST: MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE SAXOPHONISTS VOLUME 1 (Matchless)
"Although he occasionally airs his still-astonishing circular-breathing polyphonic routine, Parker, on excellent form, mainly stays connected to the jazz roots, displaying an unmistakeable, albeit stern and fragmented, lyricism." (Barry Witherden) *****

ART PEPPER: THE QUINTESSENCE: LOS ANGELES 1950-1960 (Frémeaux)
"This set captures magnificently the sheer variety of settings that Pepper recorded in during this troubled time. From the big, brassy arrangements of the Stan Kenton orchestra, through to more intimate quartet and duo performances, Art sounds remarkably fluid and inventive." (John Adcock) *****

ZOOT SIMS: FOUR CLASSIC ALBUMS (Avid)
"Has there ever been a jazz musician to match the consistency of Zoot Sims? The music heard on this latest Avid is an unalloyed joy throughout, proving yet again that each time John Haley Sims stepped up to a recording microphone riches poured forth." (Simon Spillett) *****



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